When I did a critical review of the changed dynamics between me and amma in the last 5-7 years, I saw very few bing bang changes.
My temperament has not changed dramatically. Even today, I cannot plan and host a social event or party at my house – I simply am not cut out for doing things like these. My sister is very good at stuff like these. She was the one behind the well-organized 60th year and 80th year celebrations for appa, which must have made amma really happy.
Fig 33: Appa’s 60th birthday (1994), an important occasion for amma too. This was completely anchored by my sister. I’m behind appa, with my sister behind amma.
I do not recall any dramatic changes I made to my house for amma – most of the significant additional comforts were actually added by my sister who had flown down to be with amma for a month post her first aortic dissection in 2011.
Even in the interactions I had with amma, there were no big bang changes – I still am not a big talker, so our discussions had been quite brief except on rare occasions.
So, there was really no change in me that can be considered big.
The real changes had been in the minutiae. Either consciously or subconsciously, I had adopted or started following a number of small practices – be it shaking her hands early morning (a practice rarely followed in traditional Indian families), touching her feet every day while starting for office, applying the vermilion streak on her forehead, or saving a few 5 or 10 rupee coins for her every day. These were really easy to do even for a person with my temperament, because they did not need a big change in my personality – just small changes to my habits.
These small acts will barely register on the radar of an outside observer. But I’m positive that these brief moments provided amma enormous satisfaction, because they showed that I cared for her in many different ways – every day. It’s quite likely that our hearts allocate a disproportionate amount of space for such small moments of satisfaction.
Big days of course hold their own value – their memories last a lifetime. But these can happen perhaps only once in a few years.
Compared to lifelong memories of the big days, the sparks of joy provided by small, special moments are perhaps relatively transient. But these sparks can happen every day – multiple times. Such a continuum of lively moments every day holds immense value.
What could hence be ideal for old parents is a combination of big days happening once in a few years complemented by dozens of valuable moments every day.
Amma was lucky to have this enriching combination in the last few years – thanks to the contrasting personalities I and my sister had.
Fig 34: Good times big and small – both big and small events have their own distinct value, but it is much easier to have hundreds of small but special moments as against only a few big events spread far apart from each other. I did a reasonably good job of designing many small but valuable moments, while my sister had the temperament to organize a few large events over the last many years.
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